KJ | 3 spots to tidy at mill

Source: Kennebec Journal, Keith Edwards, January 24, 2012

AUGUSTA — The former Augusta Tissue mill site has three spots where pollution, including PCBs from transformers that overflowed into the ground, must be addressed in order for the site to be reused.

In addition, the PCB-contaminated soil will have to be removed from the prominent riverside location and hauled to a licensed disposal facility, according to an environmental consultant hired by the city. However, the two other polluted spots on the site may be able to be covered and capped in place, reducing the potential cost of the planned cleanup.

Altogether, cleaning up the three remaining polluted sites could cost about $350,000, according to John Cressey, of Summit Environmental Consultants. That estimate is well within the $480,000 the city has available and dedicated to cleanup the site. Cressey said the cleanup could take place by the end of the coming construction season.

Brian Beneski, project manager for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, said the agency has reviewed the plan to clean up the site and approves of it.

The city hopes, once the site is cleaned, to sell it to a company that would redevelop the parcel with new uses.

Michael Duguay, city development director, said the redevelopment plan and cleanup plan “fit hand-and-glove,” and, together, will inform how different parts of the property may be redeveloped. The city in June was awarded a $400,000 federal Environmental Protection agency grant to finish cleaning up the site, which officials said was a mill for about 125 years. That grant must be matched by $80,000 in city funding.

PCBs, organic chemicals that can cause cancer, have polluted the soil in an approximately 75-by-20-foot spot where large transformers were once stored at the mill site. Cressey said thieves stole copper from the transformers and left their lids open, which allowed rain to enter the transformers. That then caused fluid contaminated with PCBs to overflow from the transformers.

Cressey said the city has no choice but to remove the contaminated soil, because the EPA requires the removal of any soil affected by greater than one part per million of PCBs, regardless of how the site is going to be reused.

He estimates removing the soil and having it hauled to a disposal facility in New York will cost about $100,000.

“The good news is, it’s a limited amount of soil,” Cressey told city councilors last week. “We’re only going to have to go about 6 inches deep to take care of everything.”

The two other remaining polluted spots at the former mill site — which for many years was known as Statler and, before that, Hudson — are an oil-contaminated spot next to the Kennebec River near the mill’s former boilerhouse and at a site where arsenic in creosote leached out of railroad ties.

During shutdowns, the mills used steam to blow oil out of the boilerhouse. Some of the oil was left behind on rocks and has since baked onto the rocks, leaving an asphalt-like material there, Cressey said.

He said rather than removing the rocks and material, which Cressey said would cost more money than the city has available, the city could have the area covered with angular stone to prevent people from coming into contact with the contaminants and prevent erosion.

Cressey said a similar fix could be done to the arsenic-contaminated soil. The area could be capped with gravel and loam, with material left underground to serve as an indicator of potential trouble for anyone digging at that spot in the future, and topped with either plants or a road surface.

The EPA already has spent about $1.4 million to clean up chemicals found at the mill and its wastewater treatment facility.

The city took the site for nonpayment of taxes in 2009. Since then, it has had a contractor level the former mill buildings on the 18-acre site, which has about a mile of river frontage near the city’s downtown.

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